Walk with Poetry

"If winter's here, can spring be far behind," wrote the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. And when those warm days do break through our wintry snows, Carroll Avenue and the city's parks will be abloom with flowers and colorful poetry posters.

For when spring is here, so too is "Spring for Poetry in Takoma Park," a unique poetry walk conceived and supported by the Friends of the Takoma Park Maryland Library in collaboration with the School of Art and Design at Montgomery College.

Walk along Carroll Avenue from Takoma Junction to Old Town, visit children's parks, the library, and the community center, and you will have found in Spring of 2010 bright poems such as Pablo Neruda's "Ode to a Pair of Socks," Emily Dickinson's “Snake," Phyllis McGinley's "Portrait of a Girl with Comic Book," and Naomi Shihab Nye's "My Grandmother in the Stars."

The 2010 poetry selection committee – Takoma Park Laureate Anne Becker, Rosanne Singer, Sidney March, Ann Slayton, and Merrill Leffler – went far afield in bringing together an array of poems by U.S., British, Latin American, South African, and Polish poets.

Some like Walt Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider," Cesar Vallejo's "Black Stone on Top of a White Stone," and Galway Kinnell's "Memories of My Father" are sober and meditative, while others such as Etheridge Knight's "It Was a Funky Deal" and Philip Schultz's "Laughter" can be wild, if not raucous. Others such as in the opening lines of "In Praise of My Sister" by Polish Nobel Prize winning poet Witslawa Szymborska are whimsically reflective:

My sister doesn't write poems,
and it's unlikely that she'll suddenly start writing poems.
She takes after her mother, who didn't write poems,
and also her father, who likewise didn't write poems.
I feel safe beneath my sister's roof:
my sister's husband would rather die than write poems.
And even though this is starting to sound as repetitive as Peter Piper,
the truth is, none of my relatives write poems.

As in the past three years, the poetry posters are being designed by students in Professor Andrea Adam's Typography Design class. At a meeting with the class, Friends Board member and graphic designer Michele Morgan spoke with students about what they will need to consider in choosing type fonts, colors, and graphic elements. "What qualities will make a passerby want to stop and look at the poem?" Morgan asked.

"The students were responsive and seemed genuinely excited," says Morgan. "After all, it’s a great project for young designers – this is a real-world project where their designs will be out on the street for so many to see."

The poems and their locations will be on the Friends website www.ftpml.org in April. Contact us at the website about poems on the poetry walk you especially like. . . and perhaps don't. We look forward to hearing from you.


Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face
how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be
at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration
that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips.

      — Grace Paley (1922-2007)